In this section you can learn about the basics , the assessment mandate , the structure and the drafting process of the report, guide for authors and the assessment  organization

ABOUT

THE BASICS


One quarter of all animal protein consumed by humans comes from the sea
One-third of oil production comes from the marine environment - worth $3 billion per day
There are over 50,000 merchant ships on earth, employing over 1.2 million mariners
Marine plants produce about half of the oxygen in the atmosphere
About 2.2% of the ocean is presently within protected areas- compared with 10.7% of land within protected areas
There may be 13,000 pieces of litter in every square kilometre of ocean- the exact figure is unknown
All the water we drink originates from the ocean, and eventually it is returned to the ocean
85% of marine species are unknown to science
Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps is presently causing global sea level to rise 0.4 millimeters per year
Fishing the ocean's top predators has reduced their numbers by around 90% of what existed prior to 1950
Only a small percentage of the sea has been mapped in detail by sonar
The "High Sea " refers to the 230 million km2 (60%) of the ocean area that lies outside the jurisdiction of nations
80% of all tourism is based on the marine environment
The oceans will continue without humans, but humans cannot continue without the oceans

People’s perceptions of the world ocean.

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MANDATE

The Regular Process was established by the United Nations General Assembly through a series of resolutions.  The full texts can be found at:

http://www.un.org/depts/los

The objective for the Regular Process is articulated in UNGA Resolution 57/141, (2005) “to improve understanding of the oceans and to develop a global mechanism for delivering science-based information to decision makers and public”.

The overall objective, endorsed by the UN General Assembly in UNGA Resolution 64/71 (2009), paragraph 177, is that:

  • “The regular process under the United Nations would be recognized as the global mechanism for reviewing the state of the marine environment, including socioeconomic aspects, on a continual and systematic basis by providing regular assessments at the global and supraregional levels and an integrated view of environmental, economic and social aspects.
  • Such assessments would support informed decision-making and thus contribute to managing in a sustainable manner human activities that affect the oceans and seas, in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other applicable international instruments and initiatives.
  • The regular process would facilitate the identification of trends and enable appropriate responses by States and competent regional and international organizations.
  • The regular process would promote and facilitate the full participation of developing countries in all of its activities. Ecosystem approaches would be recognized as a useful framework for conducting fully integrated assessments.”
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ASSESSMENT ORGANIZATION

The task of the first cycle of the Regular Process (2010 to 2014) will be to produce the World Ocean Assessment. To this end, the General Assembly has created an Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole, to oversee and guide the Regular Process, and a Group of Experts to carry out the assessments within the framework of the Regular Process. In addition, a much larger pool of experts has been created to assist the Group of Experts in conducting the assessments and to provide effective peer-review to ensure the high quality of the outputs. Since the Working Group meets once a year, a Bureau consisting of fifteen Member States, representing the regional groups of the United Nations, was established for the intersessional periods.

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, has been designated by the General Assembly to act as the secretariat of the Regular Process and it maintains a separate website for the Regular Process, including an archive of relevant documents.

Diagram illustrating the organisational structure of the Regular Process.

 

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STRUCTURE OF WORLD OCEAN ASSESSMENT I

The UN General Assembly has approved the Outline for World Ocean Assessment I based on the following broad structure:

I.          Summary

II.         The context of the assessment

III.       Assessment of major ecosystem services from the marine environment (other than   provisioning services)

IV.        Assessment of the cross-cutting issues: food security and food safety

V.         Assessment of other human activities and the marine environment

VI.        Assessment of marine biological diversity and habitats

VII.      Overall assessment

The process of developing this structure started from the Drivers-Pressures-State-Impacts-Response (DPSIR) framework (see figure).  This framework was recommended by the Assessment of Assessments (the start-up phase of the Regular Process).  The DPSIR represents a systems-analysis view – the driving forces of social and economic development exert pressures on the environment.  As a consequence, the state of the environment changes. This leads to impacts on, for example, human well-being and ecosystem health that can lead to a response in social controls on human activity.  This in turn feeds back onto either the driving forces,  the pressures, the state of the environment or the impacts directly, through adaptation or through curative action. The DPSIR approach offers at least three possible approaches for structuring the Assessment: (a) Pressures; (b) Habitats; and (c) Ecosystem Services.

The DPSIR represents a systems-analysis view – the driving forces of social and economic development exert pressures on the environment.  As a consequence, the state of the environment changes. This leads to impacts on, for example, human well-being and ecosystem health that can lead to a response in social controls on human activity.  This in turn feeds back onto either the driving forces,  the pressures, the state of the environment or the impacts directly, through adaptation or through curative action.

Using pressures as the basis of the structure of the World Ocean Assessment I would have the advantage that the human activities creating the pressures are commonly linked with data collection and regulation. For instance, permits that are issued for offshore oil and gas development require specific monitoring and reporting obligations be met by operators.  It would not, however, give an integrated view of the combined effects of the impacts of different pressures.

Using marine habitats as the basis for the structure would have the advantage that “habitat” is the property that inherently integrates many ecosystem features, including higher and lower trophic level species, water quality, oceanographic conditions and many types of anthropogenic pressures (1). The cumulative aspect of multiple pressures affecting the same habitat, that is often lost in sector-based environmental reporting (2), would be captured by using Habitats as assessment units. It would not, however, give a coherent view of the economic and social aspects of the various human activities.

Using ecosystem services as the basis for the structure would follow the approach of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (3). This has the advantage of broad acceptance in environmental reporting (3). It includes provisioning services (food, construction materials, renewable energy, coastal protection) while highlighting regulating services and quality-of-life services that are not captured using a pressures or habitats approach to structuring the Assessment.  However, it would not give a focused view of the situation of specific species and habitats of high importance.

The UN General Assembly had highlighted (4) the cross-cutting issues of food safety and food, where the most significant ecosystem provisioning services come together with the social and economic issues of the highest importance.

Given that all three approaches have their own particular advantages and disadvantages and the importance of reflecting the cross-cutting issues, the Group of Experts proposed a combination of all three approaches .

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GUIDANCE FOR CONTRIBUTORS

Guidance for contributors to World Ocean Assessment I is set out in a document approved by the Bureau of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole.

This document sets out guidance for all those involved in World Ocean Assessment I, under the following headings:

  • Status of Contributors
  • Structure of the Regular Process
  • Tasks to be undertaken and who will do them (setting out the roles of Lead Members, Lead Drafters, other members of the drafting teams, commentators and peer-reviewers)
  • Context of the Regular Process
  • Identifying existing assessments (including the role of the GRAMED database of assessments)
  • Information (guidance on what data and information may be used, and how it should be handled)
  • World and regions (guidance on the degree to which World Ocean Assessment I should give regional or finer detail)
  • Risk (guidance on how risks should be described)
  • Integration (guidance on what is intended by an integrated assessment and strategies for achieving this in relation to human activities and habitats and species)
  • Characterizing uncertainty
  • Ethics in authoring and evaluating material for the Regular Process
  • Style and modalities (advising the use of United Nations’ stylistic guidance and methods of handling documents)
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PROCESS OF DRAFTING WORLD OCEAN ASSESSMENT I

World Ocean Assessment I will be carried out by the Group of Experts (under the supervision of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole).  They will be helped by members of a Pool of Experts nominated by UN Member States.  The types of expertise needed within the Group of Experts and the Pool of Experts include all aspects of maritime activities and marine science (for example, fisheries, ports, shipping, oil and gas, economics, biology, geology, oceanography and sociology)

For each chapter of the Assessment, a member of the Group of Experts will be designated as in the lead, to develop the chapter and its supporting working papers, for final approval by the Group of Experts collectively.  Depending on the relevant expertise, the Lead Member may also be the Lead Drafter for the chapter, and may be assisted by other members of the Group of Experts.  Where the Lead Member is not Lead Drafter, the Lead Drafter will be chosen from the Pool of Experts.

Likewise, the other members of the drafting team for each chapter will be drawn from the Group of Experts and the Pool of Experts.  Where the Lead Member is also the Lead Drafter, another member of the Group of Experts will exercise an additional oversight.  In addition, for some chapters, a panel of commentators may also be designated, to enable the drafting team to benefit from a wider range of expertise. The types of expertise needed within the Pool of Experts include all aspects of marine industry and marine science (eg. ports, shipping, oil and gas, economics, biology, geology, oceanography etc.).

A key point is that the World Ocean Assessment 1 will make use of, and be fundamentally built upon, existing assessments: these will include the results of major international marine programmes, such as the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the Census of Marine Life (4), the outputs of agencies like the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (5), and the assessments produced by regional seas organizations and regional fisheries management bodies.

The draft World Ocean Assessment I will be subject to a double review.  On the one hand, it will be submitted to UN Member States for their comments.  On the other hand, independent peer-reviewers who have not been involved in the development of the assessment, drawn from the Pool of Experts, will be asked to examine the draft. A final version of the World Ocean Assessment 1 will then be produced, in the light of all comments from States and peer-reviewers.

Multiplying the types of experts required by number of chapters and the number of different geographic regions of the oceans, and the different roles required (Lead Drafters, commentators, peer-reviewers) suggests that the membership of the Pool of Experts may need to number around 1,000 individuals. Drafting the World Ocean Assessment 1 is thus a major undertaking that will require the full cooperation and participation of the world’s community of marine experts if it is to be successful. Recruitment to the Pool of Experts will be a continuing process, as new requirements become apparent.

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REFERENCES

  1. UNEP, IOC-UNESCO, 2009. An Assessment of Assessments, findings of the Group of Experts. Start-up phase of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment including Socio-economic aspects. UNEP and IOC/UNESCO, Malta.
  2. Halpern, B. S., Walbridge, S., Selkoe, K. A., Kappel, C. V., Micheli, F., D’Agrosa, C., Bruno, J. F., Casey, K. S., Ebert, C., Fox, H. E., Fujita, R., Heinemann, D., Lenihan, H. S., Madin, E. M. P., Perry, M. T., Selig, E. R., Spalding, M., Steneck, R. and Watson, R. (2008) A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems. Science. 319, 948 – 952.
  3. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC., 155 p.
  4. Ausubel, J.H., Crist, D.T., Waggoner, P.E. (Eds.), 2010. First census of marine life 2010: highlights of a decade of discovery. Census of Marine Life, Washington DC.
  5. FAO, 2008. Report of the FAO Workshop on Vulnerable Ecosystems and Destructive Fishing in Deep-sea Fisheries. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, p. 18.
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